I have always thought that "M" was an arbitrary company assigned code name, a thought shared by Bond in Casino Royale (remember the scene where he broke into M's apartment?). But there have been hints to that it has something to do with her real name.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT for those who are yet to see SKYFALL

The house-keeper of Bond's ancestral house, back in Scotland refers to M as Emma.

Is that her true identity? If yes, how does he come to know of it??

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    I like to think that this means she's Emma Peel, a few decades later. I don't think it's true, but I like the idea. Surely Mrs. Peel didn't really go back to civilian life after she stopped working with John Steed. Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 18:44

8 Answers 8


As noted in Wikipedia, (the Judi Dench) M's real name is very likely Olivia Mansfield. The source for this entry is this article on comingsoon.net which reveals:

There was also something else that cropped up while we were looking through the archive, something that may be of even more interest to Bond fans. As we looked at the porcelain bulldog M bequeaths Bond, the archive assistant read the inscription on the box it is presented to him in - "Olivia Mansfield bequeaths James Bond." We've searched around, and as far as we can see this is the first and only time anyone's ever revealed M's 'real name.' It may not have been spoken, but if you were watching on a big enough screen it could have been visible, so we'd argue it's now canon.

This site also provides a screenshot:

enter image description here

Besides the use of a single letter to represent the head of MI6, this might be a further homage to its very first director who was—as noted by Steve Melnikoff—named Mansfield Smith-Cumming (or C).

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    Interesting excerpt from wiki! I must say thats the closest we can come to an official name for Judi Dench in the 007 movies.
    – Sayan
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 6:30
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    If you go to the MI6 About Page, it confirms the Chief of MI6 is called "C" in deference to Sir Mansfield Cumming, who was the first Chief from 1859-1923. This substantiates what @coleopterist is trying to say above about the single letter moniker. Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 11:35

I think the house-keeper called her Emma because Em is short for Emma so he just makes the logical assumption that this is her nickname.

I also think that M means something like Master as Q is referred to in Skyfall as Quartermaster.

I strongly doubt that M has any direct link to her actual name as that would suggest that hire people based on their own name as all people holding that position in all the bond films have been known as M.

  • I would like to draw your attention to the scene I mentioned in my question Bond: I always thought M was a randomly assigned initial, I had no idea it stood for... M: Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed. Moreover, if you see, Ralph Fiennes's last name is M allory.
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 10:41
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    I still don't think it is linked to her name as Robert Brown played M between 83-89 and his characters real name was Admiral Hargreaves
    – jampez77
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 13:40
  • @KeyBrdBasher The connection to her real name still could have just been by coincidence.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 9:15
  • As a side note, if I remember correctly "Q" was already introduces as an abbreviation for Quatermaster way back in From Russia with Love, where Q made his first appearance.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 9:17
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    This recently came up on reddit (spoiler alert): reddit.com/r/movies/comments/1d5zag/… Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 14:28

To answer your specific questions -

What is M's (Jude Dench's M) real name? - nobody knows.

Is that her true identity? - nobody knows.

If yes, how does he come to know of it?? - Living in a world where people usually don't have codenames he would have assumed that Bond said Em, not M, and it was short for Emma. Whether her name is actually Emma and it was a coincidence? - nobody knows.

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    I really like your answer, not thoroughly convinced......but I like it!
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 13:25
  • What's to be convinced about?
    – Facepalmer
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 15:27
  • "Well nobody knows" is not the perfect way you would answer some question, the whole point being we are looking for someone who just might know!
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 6:27

M's name is not revealed in the movies.

However, if the use of "M" as a code name was based on it being the first letter of the surname of the first person to occupy that role, then this reflects real life, as the first head of the real MI6, Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, signed his documents as "C", as have all his successors.

So, this suggests 4 possibilities:

  • M is the first head of the fictional MI6.
  • She's not the first M, but both her surname, and the first M's surname, begin with "M".
  • The head of the fictional MI6 is always referred to by the first letter of their surname, and it's just coincidence that, in this case, they both begin with "M".
  • None the above, and it is really is a randomly assigned initial, or is short for "Master" or something similar.
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    Do you have anything concrete to support your last claim, that M does not stand for Master as Q may stand for Quartermaster...
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 12:48
  • That's the opposite of what I'm saying; it could indeed stand for "Master" or similar. Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 14:39
  • M stood for Mother since the inception, revealed in a backstage tour in the 1990s. This was reaffirmed by some of the dialog in Skyfall where the bad guy teased Bond about it.
    – wallyk
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 16:41

I vaguely recall from a documentary that I saw about Flemming that it started out as an abbreviation. The person in charge, when he read documents, would sign them 'M' as it was his initial.

After a while it grew into being his name because it was easier to say than 'Section Commander ...'. When he stepped down/was pushed aside the next person continued to use M as their signature as everyone was calling him M anyway. Hence is became a kind of code name.

  • please do read the description to my question title too...
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 10:59
  • LOL - sorry I went off on a complete tangent with my answer and only address your last paragraph!
    – Stefan
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 11:01

It clearly has to do with her actual name as she wouldn't have hit so snippy with him when he said that a few films ago. But I do not think her name is Emma. That's just an old geezers assumption and would he totally coincidental.

This is the M from Ian Flemings' short stories. Not the movies. Keep that in mind.

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    This is more like a comment than an answer. Please consider adding more substance to it.
    – Sayan
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 7:38

The only fact I would add to the answers above is that in the books (Moonraker and The Man with the Golden Gun) one of the M characters is named as Sir Miles Messervy. M was his initial.

My guess is that the character M was carried over into the films, Judi Dench was cast and the initial continued. A name through evolution rather than because every person who held the position of 'M' had a name beginning with M! The line is most likely a throwback to this relationship (after all Casino Royal was Bond's first double-O assignment).

I don't believe we can know for sure.


"M" could be the British short form for Mom. Mom is the British word of respect for a woman.

James Bond refers to her using both M and Mom in the film.

British military may refer to a female officer as Mom instead of Sir.

It's disrespectful to refer to a man as Mom, which is why Bond might have referred to her replacement at the end of the film as M. He was the guy who got shot in the arm (sorry, can't remember his name).

I remember when Bond calls him M he says it almost sarcastically.

  • Somehow the answer here, twisted d meaning of the question to sound more like Why is Judi Dench known as M ? Though that was not my question in the first place!
    – Sayan
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 6:13
  • True, I have no idea what her real name is.
    – Reactgular
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 6:22
  • This is very wrong. As a British person I've never heard M being short for Mom (and we spell and pronounce it Mum). You're also confusing Mom with Ma'am, which is short for Madam and a term of respect for a woman or female superior officer in the police and military. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 17:32

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